‘This will be a winery town’

SNOHOMISH — Scott Swoboda isn’t the kind of guy who blows his own horn, but a couple of his endeavors in Snohomish are getting attention.

First is the Washington Public Market and Wine Cellars of Washington. The public market fills all 25,000 square feet of the former 1890s Emporium Building and sits across Second Street from Wine Cellars of Washington in the former Heritage Square Building, which has 20,000 square feet of space. A quarter of that is set aside upstairs for wine tasting booths and a cafe furnished with matching heavy dark bars and hand-built tables and chairs from the Bramble Co., an Indonesian manufacturer.

Swoboda is lining up 25 wineries and 180 market vendors to participate in the venture. Wine merchants and vendors with perishable products will sell their wares in the Heritage Square building. As of early August, Swoboda said he had about half of the wineries and vendors lined up. The official opening is scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16.

For the regular wine tastings, vendors will pay Swoboda a flat fee of $250 per weekend for use of the facility. Each wine taster will pay a $5 cover charge and gets a voucher for $5 off the cost of a bottle of wine from any wine vendor. Swoboda will then return the voucher money to the vendors.

“There’s almost no one who would do that,” he said. With up to 5,000 visitors on weekends, Swoboda expects he’ll have enough income to cover his overhead. “That’s all I care about.”

The closest comparable food and wine venture to Swoboda’s is Urban Enoteca in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Vendors there sign a five-year, triple-net lease and must cover their own utilities and advertising, said Swoboda. His vendors get their own coolers at their furnished bars and locked storage downstairs between events.

Both buildings have been extensively remodeled and updated and feature high-speed Wi-Fi. Outside, the parking lots have been repaved and feature power and water connections for outdoor vendors. They offer a lot of curb appeal.

Swoboda had been leasing both buildings from Art Poier since 1981. The 1890s Emporium building was originally the showroom for Poier’s auto dealership, and the Heritage Square building sits on what used to be Poier’s used-car lot. He bought both buildings a couple of years ago.

What Swoboda’s offering his hometown is a new attraction for shoppers who already walk from one downtown business to the next. With the public market and wine cellars, “the downtown community can feed off both facilities,” he said.

“It’s employing a lot of people,” Swoboda said of the venture and its many vendors. “It explodes Snohomish on the map.” In five years, “this will be a winery town.”

As if Swoboda doesn’t have enough on his plate, he again became the owner of Designers’ Warehouse on Oct. 1, 2010. It’s now known as Bankrupt Inventory Liquidators and opened on Dec. 26.

Swoboda sold Designers’ Warehouse in 2004 and bought it from Cascade Bank when the loan went into default. He said he bought the business to preserve his investment in the buildings, which cover 105,000 square feet at the east end of Hewitt Avenue in downtown Everett.

The store sells quality furniture Swoboda gets from distressed distributors and bankrupt stores.

While Cascade Bank Chief Executive Officer Carol Nelson took a lot of heat for her bank’s acquisition by Opus Bank of California, Swoboda defended her.

“Carol Nelson is a good person,” he said. “She’s saving jobs.”

Kurt Batdorf is editor of the Snohomish County Business Journal; 425-339-3102, kbatdorf@scbj.com.

On the Web

To learn more about Wine Cellars of Washington and Washington Public Market and opportunities for vendors, go to www.winecellarsofwa.com.

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